Are Gang Injunctions Working?
|Is this what you'd call a "safety zone?"|
Some might call that optimistic.
Lt. Jim Miller, the commanding officer of the SFPD Gang Task Force, told SF Weekly Monday that one of the four people shot in the recent tit-for-tat gang violence in the Mission District during the last month was himself on the gang injunction list.
Miller wouldn't name him, but just said the man was shot on 24th Street -- right in the heart of the injunction's "safety zone." Miller says that if police determine that he was shot while violating the injunction -- which bans the listed gang-bangers from congregating, flashing gang signs, or wearing gang colors -- he'll be arrested.
"We may need to arrest him when he recovers," Miller says. "That's part of the reason for the injunction, to keep these guys safe, because if you're not in the this area where people are looking for you, you won't get hurt."
The rash of four shootings and two stabbings between Nortenos and Surenos -- which the police themselves characterized as "gang war" during a recent public safety commission meeting -- tends to make us question the measure's effectiveness.
Such issues are the topic du jour now that Oakland is attempting to create its own massive gang injunction against Nortenos in the city's Fruitvale District.
San Francisco cops and the city attorney's office are still defending the injunctions as an important tool for enforcement.
"We still believe [gang injunctions are] successful, and necessary," says San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Alex Tse, who worked on putting together the 2007 injunction, which listed 18 Norteno gang members.
Since 2006, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is now running for mayor, has created four gang injunctions involving seven street gangs.
"The gang injunction isn't going to prevent all crimes of violence -- we never said they would," Tse says.
That's for sure.
After a period of relative calm in the Mission District, Nortenos and Surenos began tagging each other's territory in mid-February, says Miller. Later, Aldo "Trigger" Troncoso was gunned down near 17th and Valencia Streets, in Sureno territory, in late February. After a sidewalk candle memorial to Troncoso got trashed, police believe Surenos retaliated by shooting a 26-year-old near 24th and Harrison Streets the next week -- right in the Norteno gang injunction's safety zone.
Miller told us that police have some suspicion of who the perps might be, but they haven't made any arrests.
Miller calls the Norteno injunction a "big help," the only problem being it doesn't list enough people.
"The majority of the gang members are not on the gang injunction...If we could start putting everybody committing violence on these injunctions, they would probably stay away and get rid of the violence out there," he said.
Tse referenced some statistics on the purported success of the injunction, showing the listed gang-bangers are getting into trouble less often. Specifically, Nortenos were only arrested for six alleged crimes in 2010, compared to nine arrests in 2008.
Last year's arrests include domestic violence, drug possession, and felony vandalism.
Tse wouldn't disclose whether the city attorney's office was going to add more names to the gang injunction list. He did say, however, "We're constantly evaluating and working with the police department to develop the best strategy to preserve the safety of our neighborhoods."
To that we ask: Are you going to add any more names?
"That's my answer," Tse said.
And he's sticking to it.
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